If you live in Arizona and look closely, you will see the handprints of Karl Eller. His success, community mindedness and generosity have impacted the entire state. In March 2016, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce presented Eller with the 2016 Heritage Award for his accomplishments and commitment to Arizona.
Married to his college sweetheart, Joan “Stevie” Stevens, Eller built a legendary business career that included both success and failure – and ultimately success. During those years, he was making his mark in other ways as well.
Eller became integral in luring professional sports to Arizona. In 1967, he was the lead investor in a group from Phoenix that brought the original Phoenix Roadrunners hockey team to the Valley. In 1968, he was one of the founding investors in the Phoenix Suns. In 1971, he was one of the founders of the Fiesta Bowl. In 1978 he was instrumental in getting Arizona State University and the University of Arizona accepted into the Pac 8, later renamed the Pac 10. In 1988, Eller and a group of Phoenix businessmen were responsible for bringing the St. Louis Cardinals to Arizona.
Eller funded the Karl Eller Center for the Study of the Free Enterprise Economy at the University of Arizona in 1983 and the UA’s Eller MBA Programs were named for him in 1987. The UA Eller College of Business and Public Administration was named for him
in 1999 (later renamed the Eller College of Management). The Stevie Eller Dance Theatre was completed in 2003 on the UA campus. In 2004, he chaired the fundraising effort for the Arizona Centennial. And over the years, he and Stevie have made the significant monetary contributions to Barrow Neurological Foundation.
In receiving the Heritage Award, Eller joined the ranks of other prominent Arizonans from many walks of life whose accomplishments are recognized not only in the state but also nationally and internationally.
Karl Eller passed away on March 10, 2019.